PONARS Policy Memo 404 - Alternative Interpretation of the Russian-Ukrainian Gas Crisis
January 1, 2006
The month-long conflict between Russia and Ukraine over the price of Russian gas has pitted images against policy. In recent years, the image of Russia has been largely negative while the image of Ukraine after the Orange Revolution of 2004 has been largely positive. Consequently, Western sympathies were, by and large, on the side of Ukraine. Russia’s behavior was seen as arrogant and unreasonable. The reduction of gas supply to Europe on January 1 and 2, 2006 was blamed squarely on Russia as well. Yet, a closer look suggests that more than one interpretation of this crisis is possible and, furthermore, in this particular case Russian policy was perhaps not unreasonable, even though badly executed, and was in the long-term interest of the international community and even Ukraine.